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Google Admits Hreflang IS A Foreign Language To Most SEOs

May 6, 2024

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Gary Illyes from Google acknowledges that hreflang is “complex, annoying, and confusing” for SEO professionals and is open to replacing it with an easier-to-understand alternative that would serve large and small websites.

What Gary wrote on LinkedIn about hreflang: 

However, hreflang’s complexity and annoyance aren’t new; as Google Senior Search Analyst John Mueller said several years ago, “hreflang can be the most complex aspect in SEO.” 

What is the hreflang tag?

Hreflang is an attribute in HTML that gives search engines essential details about your content’s intended language and country. 

In other words, hreflang tells search engines which region and language your content targets.

Hreflang can attract new audiences in the following ways:

  • Visitors who speak the same language from different countries
  • Visitors who speak different languages from the same country
  • Visitors from different countries who speak multiple languages

Why SEOs need hrefleng

Anyone requiring website language translations to engage new audiences and increase website traffic in different locations needs a handle on hreflang, as it (supposedly) simplifies the procedure!  

Implementing hreflang can help boost your site’s search engine optimization (SEO) and reach foreign audiences without sacrificing your domain authority, which is a great way to monetize your content and expand your marketing reach. 

But there’s a problem!

The risk of duplicate content!

Neil Patel wrote about the risk of being penalized for duplication:


With Google’s recent Helpful Content update (link to recent post), duplication could be a big problem for your website’s ranking in search results. 

Fortunately, hreflang tells Google about the different versions of your content, preventing duplicate content issues.

But that doesn’t solve the annoyance problem!

Google is open to less annoying Hreflang ideas 

As Gary said:

  • “One of the things I’ve learned and heard in Sofia at the SERPConf event is that hreflang is annoying.”

Gary also wrote he is open to new ideas:

  • “I’m still very open to coming up with something less annoying, but it needs to work for small sites and mammoths while delivering at least the same amount of information.”

Anyone reading this who knows how to simplify using hreflang should tell Gary; he wrote, “Ping if you have ideas.”

Until then, for many SEOs, hreflang will continue to look like a foreign language!

Terry O'Toole

Terry O'Toole

Terry is a seasoned content marketing specialist with over six years of experience writing content that helps small businesses navigate where small businesses meet marketing - SEO, Social Media Marketing, etc. Terry has a proven track record of creating top-performing content in search results. When he is not writing content, Terry can be found on his boat in Italy or chilling in his villa in Spain.

SEO Power Plays

Read by 10,000+ world-class SEOs, CEOs, Founders, & Marketers. Strategy breakdown: monday.com's 77% traffic boost 🚀 + Industry news and expert tidbits every Wednesday 🔍 + in-depth SEO strategy tips every Sunday ✨